Peter David’s Artful is a tongue-in-cheek sequel to Oliver Twist that focuses, as the title suggests, on the Artful Dodger and, naturally, vampyres. Peter David is a self-proclaimed “writer of stuff” who is well practiced in the art of storytelling. I’ve read a number of his earlier works; mostly I’ll admit his Star Trek tie-in novels, so I started Artful assured of a competently written story at the very least.
As a willfully silly, pulp sequel to Oliver Twist full of cameos by characters from Victorian literature, genuine historical figures, and vampires, this is certainly a busy novel and one that David clearly took great joy in concocting. It is not even remotely serious, nor is it trying to be. David adopts a pseudo-Victorian narrative style that is part Dickensian imitation and part parody. While occasionally this can stray and become grating, on the whole it perfectly matches the tone of the novel.
The Artful Dodger himself is a little older, a little wiser, but still the same cocky, fast-talking character he always was. Efforts to explain his backstory are marginally successful, but the novel lives and dies by its ability to set him loose in a strange new world of vampires and the fate of empires.
Artful is not a particularly original novel. Its blend of historical and fictional characters from the period has been done before, including vampires and threats to Her Majesty Queen Victoria. Nevertheless, it is fast-paced, well told, and simply fun—a difficult combination to argue with. Despite feeling familiar, Artful was never less than enjoyable with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek.
*Received a Copy from NetGalley for Review